Empty Nest


Empty Nest Syndrome. You’ve heard of it, right? Yeah, me too. Years ago. Honestly though, I’ve never given it much thought. None really. Until now.

Last week we drove our youngest to College. We spent the night at a local hotel and arrived on the doorstep of her freshman dorm bright and early. With our industrial strength dolly, we hauled boxes, arranged furniture and unpacked like pros. Armed with command strips, we hung a hook for every towel, a frame for every picture and a shelf for every book. We strung twinkly lights for ambience. We chatted with other parents, shared our dolly and exchanged decorating tips. It was exciting and fun.

Her Resident Assistant is a guy. He’s a third year pre med student. Cute, friendly and funny. He told us that he and the other RAs have nicknamed me Power Mom. “In a good way,” he assured. She lucked out with her roommate, suite and hall mates too. They’re all friendly and have similar academic interests. The neighboring dorms house childhood friends and close high school friends are just a stone’s throw away. She’s in a good place. Our youngest. Our girl. She’s ready. I’m so happy for her. Goodbye was easy. For real. There were no tears. I have no worries.

And then we came home.

I had no intention of wallowing in misery. I’ve got a list that I’ve been composing for months. I’m going to clean out closets, scrape popcorn off ceilings, paint the house, practice yoga, commit to camp Gladiator, lose ten pounds, spend more time with my dad and watch sunsets with my husband. And other stuff. I’m going to write more. I’m going to write better. I’m going to chill with my church basement friends, sipping bad coffee and exchanging secret handshakes. I’ve signed up for a painting class. I’m going to explore my own creativity. I’m going to visit art galleries and replace the junk on our walls with original pieces by local artists. Meaningful stuff. I’ve got a list. A plan.

Empty Nest Syndrome is not on my list. It’s not part of the plan. And yet, things don’t always go as planned. So I’m rolling with it. I tried to ignore it at first, in hopes it would pass. The thing is real though, and it’s demanding to be acknowledged.

I googled it. I googled Empty Nest Syndrome. It’s not a clinical diagnosis. I take comfort in that. One less label is fine by me. It’s a phenomenon. It’s the phenomenon of experiencing sadness and loss when the last child leaves home. Yeah okay. I’m in.

I miss my girl. I miss her friends. I miss our conversations. I miss all of it.

Now what. How long will this syndrome thing demand that I lie around in sweat pants and eat snicker bars for dinner? Because really, there’s not much wiggle room left in my sweat pants.

Turns out it’s mostly up to me. I get to say when.Turns out recognizing and acknowledging the sadness are steps in the right direction. Good. Done. Turns out its perfectly okay to be sad but it’s vitally important to move forward. Turns out the list I composed will come in handy. Turns out I’ve got to put one foot in front of the other.

So, it’s time. It’s time to act as if. It’s time to suit up and show up. It’s time to fake it till I make it.
It’s time to get back to the business of living happy, joyous and free. One day at a time, starting right now.

One last thing though, I’m not scraping popcorn off the ceiling. I changed my mind about that. Because I can.

12 comments on “Empty Nest
  1. Oh, you bring those days back to me – when the last kid left and I had to start living my life for me again – after almost 25 years. Turns out to be a good thing, in the end.

  2. Oh Jeanne, this could not have come at a better time for me to read it. My Ronnie and his wife and pup recently moved out and into their own home with my new grandbaby. On top of that my relationship of 10 months ended suddenly. This past weekend, my remaining son Andrew took my dog away with him for the weekend. The house was very quiet and very lonely. They, of course, came home Monday, but I found myself sitting around in the evenings feeling down. Your blog helped me realize it’s up to me to push myself, one step at a time, and take charge of my life once again. Thank you!

    • Thanks Sue. It’s a bizarre feeling of disconnect, for sure. And you’ve got double the impact with the breakup. Wallow a while, set the timer and then get out there and create your new existence. Make a list. Well get through this!

  3. So love reading your writings. They are so down to earth ! You have a way of capturing the real you and the reality of life situations.
    Keep giving us more and forget the popcorn on the ceiling – instead have some popcorn while watching a movie!!!

  4. This was such a good read!! I have been the sissy I never knew I was. I thought I was ready for Mary to leave, that I was so proud to see her go. And now she’s gone. And everything about her is gone. It’s hard filling in the space without her here, but I am so proud of her. She has overcome so much and that is what gets me through the days. PS…. I got a really cute picture of Darci and Mary today. Apparently they found eachother!!!!

    • Hi Jackie. Darci told me she ran into Mary and they spent done time together!!
      They’re going to be fine. It’s a tough transition for you n me though!!

  5. It is the strangest feeling when yup kids leave. Such a double edge sword. You are so proud that you have an independent person out in the world, yet you still want to take care of them. Trevor leaves for the Marine Corps in 6 weeks . Thomas moved to Seattle a year ago.I know that feeling of ” what do I do now?” Just rest assured you did a great job . It will all be good

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